A growing number of outraged people in scattered communities are corn pl uning that the New York-based bookstore chain Barnes & Noble - with about 500 "superstores," it is the largest book superstore chain in the U.S. - is selling child porn. And they're notjust complaining. They're protesting, picketing and demanding the removal of offensive material.
Although the works of othcr "artists" are sometimes mentioned, the allegations center on the photography collections of jock Sturges (Radiant Identities and The Last Day of Summer), Sally Mann (Immediate Family) and David Hamilton (The Age of Innocence). To those who are incensed that the bookstores are selling the works, they are a clear case of child obscenity.
"If this type of material is allowed to stay in the store, it's going to legitimize something that is illegal," said John Oliver president of the Middle Tennessee Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, a group of two dozen people in Williamson County who want the books removed.
Oliver presented compelling evidence from the works of Sturges and Hamilton to a reporter for the Nashville Banner: pictures showing preteen girls lying in provocative poses, their breasts and genitals exposed; nude adolescent boys holding hands on the beach; young teenaged girls locked in embraces with other girls, or touching their own genitals.
In one picture from A ge of Innocence, a nude picture of a 12-or
13-year-old girl is accompanied by a poem which reads: "Take
me, take, some of you, while I am yet young and true. Ere I can my
soul disguise; Heave my breasts, and roll my eyes."
"What does that picture mean to you?" Oliver asks. "I'll
tell you what it means to me. It's telling someone, 'Rape me."'
Detective Robert Fraker of the Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, Police Department said he believes the work of Sturges is illegal. He said. "They're the - same of photographs that I've seen confiscated from pedophiles. To put them in a book and put a fancy cover on it doesn't make it protected, period." Fraker told the Associated Press that he would like to see Sturges' books off the shelves of Pittsburgh area bookstores.
When Oliver and others first began hearing about the books, they went to see for themselves. Appalled, they approached the manager of their local Barnes & Noble store to complain that the books were not only offensive but illegal. "Their attitude was that it didn't matter, that they could sell any books they wanted to." Oliver said.
So the group began to picket outside the store in an attempt to draw public attention to the content of the books. Customers coming to Barnes & Noble were given literature, asking them to boycott the bookseller.
If the manager of the local Barnes & Noble store was nonchalant about the coalition's activities, local law enforcement was ambivalent about the group's request for prosecution under the state's child pornography laws. After relentless pressure, however, Williamson County District Attorney Joe Baugh slapped a grand jury indictment on Barnes & Noble - but for a misdemeanor charge, not the felony the coalition wanted.
Still it's a start, said Troy Newman, project coordinator for Loyal Opposition, which has targeted Sturges' works with protests across the nation. "Once we recognize it's pornography, the next step is to check the ages of the people who are posing nude" to apply relevant child obscenity laws, he said.TO TAKE ACTION...
Nashville Banner, 12/29/97; Citizen Issues Alert, 12/3/97;
Jacksonville (Florida) Times-Union, 11/9/97
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